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Chelsea writes on 5 years in confinement in new Guardian op-ed

May 27, 2015 by Chelsea E. Manning

“The years since I was jailed for releasing the ‘war diaries’ have been a rollercoaster.”

It can be difficult, sometimes, to make sense of all the things that have happened to me in the last five years.

“In the years before these documents were collected, the public likely never had such a complete record of the chaotic nature of modern warfare”, writes Chelsea E Manning.

Today marks five years since I was ordered into military confinement while deployed to Iraq in 2010. I find it difficult to believe, at times, just how long I have been in prison. Throughout this time, there have been so many ups and downs – it often feels like a physical and emotional roller coaster.

It all began in the first few weeks of 2010, when I made the life-changing decision to release to the public a repository of classified (and unclassified but “sensitive” ) documents that provided a simultaneously horrific and beautiful outlook on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. After spending months preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in 2008, switching to Iraq in 2009 and actually staying in Iraq from 2009-10, I quickly and fully recognized the importance of these documents to the world at large.

I felt that the Iraq and Afghanistan “war diaries” (as they have been dubbed) were vital to the public’s understanding of the two interconnected counter-insurgency conflicts from a real-time and on-the-ground perspective. In the years before these documents were collected, the public likely never had such a complete record of the chaotic nature of modern warfare. Once you come to realize that the co-ordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives – with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live – then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.

A few months later, after spending months poring over at least a few thousand classified US diplomatic cables, I moved to also have these documents released to the public in the “cablegate” archive. After reading so many of these documents – detailing an exhaustive list of public interest issues, from the conduct of the “global war on terrorism” to the deliberate diplomatic and economic exploitation of developing countries – I felt that they, too, belonged in the public domain.

In 2010, I was considerably less mature than I am now, and the potential consequences and outcomes of my actions seemed vague and very surreal to me. I certainly expected the worst possible outcome, but I lacked a strong sense of what “the worst” would entail. I did expect to be demonized and targeted, to have every moment of my life re-examined and analyzed for every possible personal flaw and blemish, and to have them used against me in the court of public opinion or against transgender people as a whole.

When the military ordered me into confinement, I was escorted (by two of the friendliest guys in my unit) to Kuwait, first by helicopter to Baghdad and finally by cargo plane. It was not until I arrived at the prison camp in Kuwait that I actually felt like I was a prisoner. Over the succeeding days, it only got worse as the public and the media began to seek and learn more about what happened to me. After living in a communal setting for about a week, I was transferred to what amounted to a “cage” in a large tent.

After a few weeks of living in the cage and tent – not knowing what my charges were, having very limited access to my attorney and having absolutely no idea of the media firestorm that was beginning to swirl in the world outside – I became extremely depressed. I was terrified that I was not going to be treated in the dignified way that I had expected. I also began to fear that I was forever going to be living in a hot, desert cage, living as and being treated as a male, disappearing from the world into a secret prison and never facing a public trial.

It didn’t help that a few of the Navy guards delivering meals would tell me that I was was waiting for interrogation on a brig on a US cruiser off the coast of the horn of Africa, or being sent to the prison camps of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At the very lowest point, I contemplated castrating myself, and even – in what seemed a pointless and tragicomic exercise, given the physical impossibility of having nothing stable to hang from – contemplated suicide with a tattered blanket, which I tried to choke myself with. After getting caught, I was placed on suicide watch in Kuwait.

After being transferred back to the US, I was confined at the now-closed military brig at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. This time was the most difficult for me overall, and felt like the longest. I was not allowed to have any items in my cell – no toothbrushes, soap, toilet paper, books, paper and on a few occasions even my glasses – unless I was given permission to use them under close supervision. When I was finished, I had to return these items. At night, I had to surrender my clothing and, despite recommendations by several psychiatrists that I was not deemed suicidal), wear a “suicide prevention” smock – a single-piece, padded, tear-proof garment.

Eventually, after public outcry regarding the conditions of my confinement at Quantico and the resignation of PJ Crowley, the former press secretary of the Department of State, I was transferred to medium custody and the general population at an Army prison. It was a high point in my incarcerated life: after nearly a year of constantly being watched by guards with clipboards and having my movements controlled by groups of three-to-six guards while in hand irons and chains and limited contact with other humans, I was finally able to walk around and have normal conversations with human beings again.

The government pressed forward with charges of “aiding the enemy” – a treasonable offense under the US constitution – and various charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Over nearly two years of hearings, I witnessed firsthand just how much the the government was willing to invest in my prosecution: the stacks of money spent; the gallons of fuel burned; the reams of paper printed; and the lengthy rolls of personnel, lawyers and experts.

For over 100 days, I watched the lawyers who prosecuted my case present me as a “traitor” and “enemy of state” in court and then become friendly people giving greetings and making chit-chat out of court. It became clear to me that they were basically just decent people doing their jobs. I am convinced that they did not believe the treason arguments they made against me – and was, even as they spoke them.

The verdict and sentencing at the end of my court-martial was difficult to predict. The defense team seriously worried about the aiding the enemy charge and the very wide range for a sentence, which was anything between “time served” and life without parole. After the judge announced my 35-year sentence, I had to console my attorneys who, after years of hard work and effort, looked worn out and dejected. It was a low-point for all of us.

After years of hiding and holding off because of the trial, I finally announced my intent to change my name and transition to living as woman on 22 August 2013 – the day following my sentencing – a personal high point for me, despite my other circumstances. However, the military initially declined my request to receive the medically-mandated treatment for my diagnosed gender dysphoria, which is to live as a woman and receiving a regular regiment of estrogen and androgen blockers. Just like during my time at Quantico and during my court-martial, I was subjected to a laborious and time consuming legal process. Finally, just under four months ago – but nearly a year and a half after my initial request – I began my hormone treatment. I am still fighting for the right to grow out my hair to the military’s standard for women, but being able to transition remains one of the highest points for me in my entire life.

It can be hard, sometimes, to make sense of all the things that have happened to me in the last five years (let alone my entire life). The things that seem consistent and clear to me are the support that I receive from my friends, my family and the millions of people all over the world. Through every struggle that I have been confronted with, and have been subjected to – solitary confinement, long legal battles and physically transitioning to the woman I have always been – I manage not only to survive, but to grow, learn, mature and thrive as a better, more confident person.

Help us provide support to Chelsea in prison, maximize her voice in the media, continue public education and build a powerful movement for presidential pardon.

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source

Don’t get your sources in Syria killed

– by Eva Galperin

21 mai 2012

By

Because foreign journalists have been virtually banned from Syria during the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, news coverage has relied heavily on citizen journalists and international reporters working with sources inside the country. Syrians who communicate with foreign news media run the risk of being threatened, detained, tortured, or even killed.

This month, a Syrian court sentenced citizen journalist Mohammed Abdel Mawla al-Hariri to death for the crime of “high treason and contacts with foreign parties.” He was arrested in April immediately after giving an interview with Al-Jazeera about conditions in his hometown of Daraa, in the southern part of the country. According to a report by the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, al-Hariri was tortured after his arrest. In the wake of the verdict and sentencing, he was transferred to Saidnaya military prison north of Damascus.

Al-Hariri is not alone. Press freedom groups such as CPJ and Reporters Without Borders have documented the detention of dozens of journalists; Syrian reporters, bloggers, and activists are regularly followed, arrested, and tortured.

Ordinary citizens who come into contact with international journalists are also targeted. Last fall, British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister met with a 25-year-old dissident and computer expert in Damascus who goes by the pseudonym “Kardokh.” Columbia Journalism Review reports that Kardokh had agreed to be interviewed on camera, with the understanding that McAllister would blur his face before publishing the footage. But in October 2011, Syrian security agents arrested McAllister, seizing his laptop, cell phone, camera, and the footage for his documentary–including images and contact information that could be used to identify the activists he interviewed. When Kardokh heard that McAllister had been arrested, he immediately packed his bags and fled to Lebanon. Kardokh reports that several of the activists he had put in touch with McAllister had been arrested and at least one had disappeared. Channel 4, McAllister’s news outlet, told CJRthat the journalist had taken steps to protect his material but Syria proved unusually difficult.

The al-Assad regime’s surveillance of telecommunications–cell phones, text messages, email, and Internet traffic–is remarkably extensive. Using equipment built in the West by companies such as BlueCoat, the Syrian government censors the Internet, blocks websites, and snoops on traffic using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). As if that was not enough, the Syrian government has sought to expand its surveillance capabilities. Late last year, Bloomberg News reported that the Italian company Area SpA was seeking to pull out of a contract to build an Internet surveillance system in Syria that would give the government the power to “intercept, scan, and catalog virtually every email that flows through the country.” The report went on to say that all work on the system had been suspended, but the scope of the project gives a glimpse into the regime’s Orwellian vision.

In addition to its surveillance apparatus, the Syrian government may also benefit from intelligence gathered by pro-Syrian government hackers, who package malware that can capture webcam activity, disable the notification setting for certain antivirus programs, record key strokes, and steal passwords. The malware is specifically targeted at Syrian activists, including journalists and their sources, and spread through websites offering fake software downloads, fake PDFs purporting to relate to the formation of a new government after the revolution, links sent through email, Skype, and Facebook messages, and links left in the comment section of Facebook pages and YouTube videos that support the uprising.

In light of this exceptionally tricky landscape, here are some suggested best practices for international journalists communicating with sources and journalists inside of Syria.

Check for malware on your computer and have your sources check for malware on theirs. All of the security precautions in the world are useless if the Syrian government has keylogger files full of your passwords and full access to your most sensitive communications. This blog post describes how to detect and remove DarkComet RAT, the most common Trojan installed by pro-Syrian government malware, which is not detectable by most antivirus scans.

Beware of fake websites, strange downloads, and suspicious links. Pro-Syrian government hackers have used fake Facebook and YouTube websites to covertly install malware and gather login credentials. Always check the URL bar at the top of your browser when you are entering your login credentials to make sure you are not visiting a fake website. Be cautious about downloading documents or software over the Internet, even if it is purportedly coming from a friend.

Beware of phones. Do not communicate over landlines or cell phones. Do not send text messages. If your source is concerned about giving away their location, they should refrain from using satellite phones as well.

Always use encryption. Do not use Skype. Skype purports to provide encrypted video chat, but a number of security weaknesses make it inadvisable for use when lives are at stake. If you are using a Web-based mail client, make sure that you are connecting using https–it helps to install the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension. Use PGP encryption for email. Use Adium and OTR (Off the Record) for encrypted messaging.

Syrian sources may be tempted to engage in insufficient security practices if they do not fully understand the regime’s surveillance capabilities. It’s incumbent on journalists to insist on secure communications when dealing with this exceptionally high-risk population. It’s important to get the story out, but it’s even more important to keep your sources safe.

Source : http://www.cpj.org/security/2012/05/dont-get-your-sources-in-syria-killed.php

Journalists covering the Syrian uprising have been targeted with government surveillance,

Syria: Extrajudicial Executions

[youtube http://youtu.be/d9hMBtD2U6A?]

Execution Butcher Assad Style

#Duma #Damascus #Syria – 13th mar 2012
video showing the brutal execution of a 28 year old Syrian activist, Mahmoud Mohammad Saab, who was shot by regime forces and then hung out of the window till his death.
He was arrested before on 15th august 2011 for his activism and he left two children.
[youtube http://youtu.be/voBh8S6FosM?]

Video shows massacre in Homs

[youtube http://youtu.be/oNW9x0f_23E?]

Life and death under Syria’s military onslaught

March 10, 2012 — Updated 1459 GMT (2259 HKT)
<br/>CNN senior photojournalist Neil Hallsworth films an oil fire in Homs, Syria.
CNN senior photojournalist Neil Hallsworth films an oil fire in Homs, Syria.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN crew explains how they were smuggled into Homs, Syria, to witness a brutal crackdown on regime opponents
  • After a year of protests across Syria, Homs was the focus of a military effort to quash the uprising
  • Women live in basements, snipers kill from rooftops, medics battle the odds in chaos
  • A home being used as a media center was targeted by the Syrian military surrounding the city

Editor’s note: Watch the full documentary “72 Hours Under Fire” on CNN International on Saturday at 4 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m., and on CNN U.S. on Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. and Monday at 2 a.m. (All times Eastern)

(CNN) — Intense black smoke billowing from the flames of an oil fire blocks out the sun. A teenage mom with a one-day-old baby seeks shelter in a dimly-lit basement from a barrage of missiles and shells.

Incoming fire smashes through the wall of a house being used as an unofficial media center in Homs, the city that is the focus of anti-regime protests and Syrian efforts to silence them.

The horror of enduring the all-out assault by the Syrian military is brought vividly to life in a CNN documentary airing this weekend.

With the help of local activists, a CNN crew was smuggled into Homs, moving from house to house as the Syrian army fired missiles and tank shells.

For more than a year President Bashar al-Assad’s military had used brutal force to put down the uprising.

Across Syria, protesters demanded change — chanting “down with the regime” but it was Homs — and especially the neighborhood of Baba Amr — that became the epicenter.

See the videos here 

72 hours: Smuggled into Homs

72 hours: A precious lifeline

72 hours: Pipeline sabotaged

72 hours: Surviving in bunkers

72 hours: Indiscriminate fire

72 hours: Getting more dangerous

Even CNN correspondent Arwa Damon, with her vast experience of reporting from war zones, had reservations about the high-risk job. She said: “I actually wrote a letter home the first time, to my family. And I went to see some very close friends as well, just in case.”

She was joined by Neil Hallsworth, a veteran cameraman who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, and Tim Crockett, a former special forces officer to handle security and who would also become an unofficial stills photographer.

Just getting into Homs was an ordeal that took five days for what would normally be a two-hour drive.

Damon said: “It involves a fairly elaborate process of being moved through farmlands, back roads, trying to avoid the government, ending up in various safe houses. And at every single leg, every single stop, you have a different person who’s responsible to move you on to the next one, someone who knows the details of the lay of the land around you to ensure that they can actually get you through from one point to another.”

For the thousands trapped in Baba Amr, the route was their only lifeline and CNN agreed to keep it secret.

In Homs, there was no frontline meaning there was also nowhere that could be called safe.

Damon said: “It [seems] mostly deserted, most of the buildings have sustained some sort of damage. And then you’ll see a kid peek their head out from a doorway, or you’ll see a man walking in the street carrying an A.K.”

Some of the most constant fire has been on Baba Amr where people are killed or wounded daily, and where two doctors — and one of those was a dentist — are fighting against the odds to help the casualties.

In a makeshift clinic there was a man with head injuries from shrapnel, another whose leg injury was most likely going to lead to an amputation.

The medics say the Syrian military regards the clinic as a target so they have set up in numerous temporary houses around Baba Amr, each with patients and with the doctors moving between them.

But snipers posted on rooftops above the rubble-littered streets made even the shortest of trips treacherous.

Mosques put out messages before the bombardment started, telling people to not live on the upper floors, to try to stay away from windows, and to try to find protective rooms, inside their homes.

In basements used as bunkers, civilians pray the next bomb will miss their home and their loved ones. In one of these bunkers, the CNN crew met a teenager who had given birth the day before.

Her daughter Fatimah was the face of innocence amid the hell of Homs. Her father does not know she’s been born. He left the shelter to get supplies a month ago and has not made it back. And her gran trembled as she explained how two other relatives died.

Virtually everyone in the shelter — about 300 people — had similar horrific stories of violent death.

And it was easy to learn how death could come arbitrarily and suddenly in Homs and how survival was as much luck as anything else.

Working in a home that had become an unofficial media center for the few Western journalists that have made it into Homs, a rocket slammed into the building just two floors up.

Also in Baba Amr was Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin who would be killed alongside French photographer Remi Ochlik just a few days later.

Throughout Baba Amr, word was spreading that a ground offensive by the Syrian military was imminent.

And for CNN it was becoming too dangerous to let Damon, Hallsworth and Crockett stay.

Damon said: “It is fundamentally unfair that we live in a world where we can go film this, report on it, and leave, knowing that the people we’ve left behind’s suffering is going to continue. Feeling as if we should’ve done more, we could’ve done more.”

Hundreds of civilians are believed to have died in the siege of Baba Amr. At least three activists involved in getting video out of Baba Amr have been killed.

At the end of February, the Syrian military broke the resistance of Baba Amr. Opposition activists claim the military carried out summary executions.

Regime forces continue to bombard other areas that oppose Assad’s rule.

In Memory of A Hero (a repost)

Posted by

Ghiath Matar, the 26 years old activist was murdered after three days of torture at the hands of Assad’s goons. Orders for such inhumane murderous treatments could only come from the highest levels

Yesterday, and as the Secretary General of the Arab League was meeting with Syria’s chief tormentor, regime thugs visited the Matar family in Damascus Suburb with the body of their twenty six (26) year old son Ghiath. Along with the body, it was reported; the thugs handed the family their son’s larynx telling them, amidst their cries to make shawarma out of it.

I am a grown man, and I don’t believe that men should not cry, for I do cry, sometimes even in sad or romantic movie. But since yesterday, my tears are bitter. And as I write these words, heavy rain falls where I live, and while I wonder if nature is crying for the brave youths of Syria, my tears race with the drops of rain and Ghiath’s beautiful smile seemingly wanting to re-assure me, I hear a voice I never heard before … “common old man, don’t  cry….. I am but one of thousands and you will be free”.

Ghiath was a leader in the Syrian youth peaceful movement. He was among those who demonstrated unparalleled creativity in non-violent resistance as he and his friends tried to greet those charged with suppressing them with flowers and bottles of water in the heat of Syrian summer. He was waiting for his first daughter when the hyenas kidnapped him after luring him with a trap turning his generosity and chivalry against him as he answered an apparent SOS call from a friend.  Within three days of his arrest, this strong young man was dead because of torture inflicted by the Assad mafia hyenas.

Have words been invented to describe the level of atrocious hate this regime has for its own people? Is their mutilation of the young bodies a manifestation of the rot that eats them? Is it fear that moves them? Is hatred? is it revenge?  Or is it simply a death wish in need of an answer?

Some may want to believe that martyrs will be happy in heaven, I think more of the living, the mother awaiting her son, the young wife longing for the strong arms of her handsome husband, the daughter who they want to have grow knowing the name and face for the man responsible for her not enjoying the cuddling of her father, his guiding words, and not holding his finger with her entire hand as she walks next to him in the market place. Curse the murderers, curse them for eternity.

I leave you with what is being passed as to Ghiath’s last will and testament to his friends, while I was translating his words, my warm tears of cold rage raced along with my heart, my arms became week and my fingers felt inept to write appropriate words. I am now dreaming that my words would turn into winds that blows the face of Syria and that cleans, once and for all, the rubbish called the Assad regime, and all those whose moral compass is pointing into a direction of inhumanity, savagery, and hate.

Translation of Ghiath Matar’s Last Will

Praise Be to Allah, prayers, and peace to our Prophet Muhammad, his family and his companions

My free and young brothers of the revolution, you who have shared with me the path to freedom during days that were the most beautiful days of my life

If words of my martyrdom pain you, be comforted in the knowledge that I have now simultaneously attained both happiness and freedom. I wish if I can come back to life so that I can once more carry the banner of justice, dignity, and freedom and to be martyred once again…. Don’t think they have finished me off with the bullet they fired.

By God, I have triumphed and I have aided my cause every moment I came out to the streets to say no to injustice and tyranny, Yes to freedom, justice and dignity

And my will to you to remain true to the principle we went out for, and to work toward achieving all the slogans we raised until they become a living reality, to persevere in your courage no matter how they tried to  get you of to throw your ranks into disarray, don’t allow them to change you, don’t cheapen my blood, and the blood of the martyrs who gave their souls for a free Syria, don’t sell our sacrifices for any price. Don’t dialog with your executioners but wrest your rights from them with your determination to achieve victory.

I have seen freedom right at the gates, I’ve seen it very close to me and to you

Every time we went out, when our chants shook the earth, and instill terror in the hearts of cowards, I sow freedom approaching and victory being achieved … From my world, I now see it approaching nearer to you. Do persevere for victory is but one extra hour of perseverance.

Do not despair even if the whole world fought you and denied you.  Do not stop even if the repelled you and erected barriers and obstacles in your ranks, do not you turn back or they will get you, destroy you, and with you destroy the dream. Do not surrender for by that you sell our precious blood, and all of the efforts we made for a free dignified homeland.

Remember me when the shouts tower, when the women ululate at the wedding ceremony of martyrdom, and whenever a demand of ours is achieved along the way to freedom. Remember me when you celebrate the fall of the regime and the liberation of our homeland from the abusers. Remember me every time you plant a Jasmine sapling in Syrian soil, every time you lay a brick in a building, and when you see the future in the eyes of children, and remember that I gave my soul and my blood for that moment.

May God countenance you and bless you with steadfastness, victory will be ours at your hands, O heroes

Syrian Citizen Ghiath Matar

Syria’s torture machine

As shown on Channel 4

Part II

Part III (last)

Syria : Massacre of Kafr Uwaid

[youtube http://youtu.be/F3aOLxIy8J8?]

He says:
o Mercy upon our martyrs who fell in Syria and in Jabal Al-Zawiya in the massacre of Kafr Uwaid.
o Saturday 17 Dec, the army entered Jabal Al-Zawiya area including kafr Amim town, where the massacre took place.
o Sunday 18 Dec, they [the regime’s army] burned the homes and the motorcycles, targeting the homes of activists, and firing randomly during the day and the night.
o Monday morning, 19 Dec, they committed a massacre, around 80 army personnel of this group defected between the towns of KanSafra and Kafr Uwaid. We heard heavy gunfire and artillery shelling on a specific place where there were no civilians. Then we knew that around 80 army personnel defected and fled to a poultry farm between KanSafra and Kafr Uwaid, so the army shelled this farm, killed them all, and took their corpses to unknown destination. Of course this random shelling of defected army members caused deaths between civilians as well, 10 civilians were killed from the town KanSafra, as the shelling was close by their town.
o Tuesday, 20 Dec, the army surrounded more than a 100 civilians west of the village of Kafr Uwaid in a village called Abu Dmaya, around 12:00 noon, they [civilians] started to shout and cry out for help, they called us telling us they are surrounded. They were civilians…more than a 100, the army surrounded them when it entered the towns of Ayla Rouse, Al-Mouzara, and Kafr Uwaid. They had no safe place to go, they were activist demonstrators. Of course when they pled with us, we had no power or ability other than to plea to the world; I am one of the persons who called Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Center for Human Rights, and he told me that he called the head of the Arab League but sadly no one responded to our plea. For more than 4 hours, the shelling was continuous on those civilians. We pled through media outlet, we posted pleas on most of the outlets, and in 4 hours…it was possible that they did not have to be martyrs, they could have stayed alive…had anyone responded to us, but sadly no one responded to us, so all of them fell [dead]. We found some of them handcuffed and finished off; after being arrested, some were killed. More than 15 victims were finished off after they were arrested. We brought them back to the village’s mosque in Kafr Uwaid town. The scene was very frightening, and I am one of the witnesses on these massacres.
o 21 Dec, Wednesday, they [the regime’s army] committed a massacre in Jabal Shehshabo in the town of Nmir, they killed more than 15 civilians in a refugee camp; they were refugees fleeing the army, they fled their villages which the army occupied and turned into barracks, these also were shelled by heavy artillery.
o We ask …we plea and ask the whole world to stand with us, we are being killed in cold blood
—————————— End of transcript

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